Sustainable Aviation in Cascadia
Pictured below: Panelists and audience members for a presentation on sustainable aviation in Cascadia. L-R, standing: John Creighton, President, Port of Seattle Commission (audience member); Dr. Frans. C. Verhagen, Sustainability Sociologist and Principal Associate, Earth And Peace Education Associates International (workshop presenter); Heather Trim, People for Puget Sound; Alec Fisken, Port of Seattle Commissioner (audience member); Paul Schlossman, columnist for the Port Observer (audience member); Christopher Cain, The Port Observer. L-R, kneeling Debi Wagner, US Citizens Aviation Watch; Fred Felleman, Friends of the Earth.
At the invitation of Christopher Cain, publisher of The Port Observer, Dr. Frans Verhagen presented at last month's Cascadia Convergence on the topic of Sustainable Aviation in Cascadia. Dr. Verhagen's comprehensive vision for aviation fit well with the big-vision goal of the Convergence -- to launch "a 5-year initiative to catalyze collaboration aimed at achieving sustainability across our bioregion."
Dr. Verhagen's presentation was a call for citizens to demand an integrated, intermodal transportation system grounded in values of sustainability and equity. He noted key national and international organizations (1) and initiatives in the sustainable aviation movement. And he made the case that aviation issues are a critical element of any regional sustainability initiative and merit the attention of advocates for a sustainable Cascadia.
INTEGRATING AVIATION INTO INTERMODAL TRANSPORTATION PLANNING
Aviation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants and its contribution relative to that of other modes of transportation is rising. (2) According to Dr. Verhagen, aviation is largely neglected in intermodal systems planning and, in a number of ways, held to lower standards of public accountability. Fully integrating aviation into intermodal transportation planning would capture transportation efficiencies across all the modes. It would spark new avenues of technological development. It would allow for the discovery of hidden costs and assumptions. It would put all our transportation options on the table at one time allowing us to make more intelligent systems-level decisions. It would bring considerable ecological benefits at a time of ecological vulnerability. The growth in the aviation industry that appears to be touted as an unmitigated boon (3) appears in a different light when it is considered that this sector may be out of balance in relation to the other transportation sectors -- perhaps placing them, and all of us living beings as well, at a competitive disadvantage.
A CASCADE LEGACY: FRAGMENTED TRANSPORTATION POLICY AND PLANNING
Policy and planning fragmentation is perhaps the central transportation challenge for our region. From the recent Regional Transportation Commission Final Report commissioned by Governor Gregoire:
"The absence of a unified system for governing transportation has created a patchwork quilt of agencies that cooperate to a large degree but ultimately compete to get local or modal projects funded and built."The Roads and Transit proposal now on our ballot addresses this fragmentation head on. However, it shares a feature that characterizes even the most advanced intermodal transportation planning: an exclusive, or nearly exclusive, focus on surface modes of transport.
From today's perspective: in a region that depends heavily on the aviation industry for its economic well-being, with our history of defeating big-vision transportation measures, and with Proposition One balancing between victory and defeat, Dr. Verhagen's thesis that regions should approach an even more comprehensive level of intermodalism -- one that fully integrates aviation, scales it down relative to other modes, and holds it more accountable -- well, that may seem a bit quixotic.
But Dr. Verhagen is inspirational at the big-vision pep-talk. He quotes Johann Goethe: "Boldness has genius, magic and power in it." He quotes Washington's own William D. Ruckelshaus:
"Can we move nations and people in the direction of sustainability? Such a move would be a modification of society comparable in scale only to two other changes: The Agricultural Revolution of the late Neolithic, and the Industrial Revolution of the past two centuries. These revolutions were gradual, spontaneous, and largely unconscious. This one will have to be a fully conscious operation, guided by the foresight that science can provide. If we actually do it, the undertaking will be absolutely unique in humanity's stay on earth."Business and government will not change unless citizens demand it, Verhagen says. He suggests a process for organizing and carrying out this demand that envisions working with business and government as well as challenging them and holding them to account. I see it as a proposal for assertive activism -- a persistent strategic demand for ethical and sustainable practices.
Washington State does have a modestly-funded mandate to integrate some aviation planning into multimodal policies. This requirement is seen in the Washington Transportation Plan 2007-2026. But we may not be meeting even that modest level of integration. WashDot's recent Multimodal Concurrency Study, for example, appears to contain no mention of aviation.
Federal policies -- which have greater power than state and regional laws to mandate and fund integrated intermodal transportation -- also appear to accord slight attention to aviation as part of the intermodal mix. The federal law that addresses transportation integration is the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act. It appears to consider intermodal transportation as a matter only of surface transportation. SAFE, Inc., is working to have aviation included as an integral part of the intermodal mix in this federal law. (3)
It is not unreasonable to call for a more integrated intermodal transportation system. In fact, it could be said that we have been stuck in a transportation tangle in part because our vision has been too small. Neither is it inappropriate to pursue this on the regional as well as on the federal level. State and regional level innovation is often the spark for national action.
CHRISTOPHER CAIN INTRODUCES DR. VERHAGEN
DR. VERHAGEN'S PRESENTATION
Click here for a Powerpoint of Dr. Verhagen's presentation.
HTML version: Sustainability within a Generation for the Aviation Industry in the Cascadia Bioregion
I'm honored to be here, Dr. Verhagen said, at this gathering in support of sustainable aviation in Cascadia. Many thanks to The Port Observer for inviting me. When I think of aviation in Seattle, New York, the United States, and internationally, one word springs to mind: growth.
Everywhere, people are up in arms because there is runway expansion, growth in the number of flights, the number cargo planes taking off late at night. We should understand these issues in the larger context of the international economic system. If we don't, we can easily become discouraged because, no matter how hard we work, it will take decades to get where we need to go. We are up against powerful international forces. The growthism in our international economic system enriches the few, impoverishes the many, and endangers the planet. It can't get any worse than that.
The growth we see in aviation has hidden and unacceptable assumptions. For example, our planning fails to distinguish differences between efficient and premium transportation. (6) Social and ecological costs are not internalized but instead are pushed out to society. We see this kind of thinking in relation to Paine Airport. Little accounting is made of the costs associated with the airport expansion to the people who live nearby -- the disturbed sleep, the noise, the total impact on health. An article in the September 19th Seattle Times, No Paine No Gain, gives us an example of this.
The imbalance of growth in the aviation sector is also supported by our unwarranted separation of policy and planning for the aviation sector and for surface transportation. Intermodal transportation is a hot topic. But it refers primarily to surface transportation. They don't include air transport! The Integrated Intermodal Transportation System (IITS) Initiative, of Sane Aviation for Everyone (SAFE, Inc.), proposes a 15-year, $300 billion push to achieve a truly integrated transportation system. (5)
SUSTAINABLE AVIATION IN CASCADIA: A CITIZEN PERSPECTIVE AND PLAN OF ACTION
How to fight expansionism and get to a sustainable aviation structure and process in the US and Cascadia within a generation
To develop a plan of action, it is necessary to start with values. People say that theory is not practical. But it is; it underlies most of what we do. Government and business do not want to change their underlying values. They will make these changes only if citizens force them to. There is a history of the concept of sustainability in the United States. In the early 1970s, sustainability was conceived in a more integrated way, as incorporating the ideas of limits to growth and social and ecological sustainability. In the 1980s and 90s business and governments became involved and these concepts became more constricted to the ideas of sustainable growth and development. We face a challenge now of moving back to a more integrated understanding of sustainability: contextual sustainability. This includes four challenges: social justice; active nonviolence; participatory decision-making; and inter-generational equity.
Beneath these challenges are foundational values. There is a need to shift from an anthropocentric to a biocentric understanding of our place in the world. We must think also in terms of bioregionalism. And we must understand that we are part of the cosmos, our physical structure is made of the stuff of "star dust". We are universe beings, as well as earth beings.
The concepts of contextual sustainability are in accordance with what we find in The Earth Charter, which is a document that is as significant in the 21st century as the Magna Carta was in the 13th century and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
It is important that, as citizens, we try to come to an agreement on our world view before getting the specifics of a plan of action.
Action on eight levels
The Citizen has a Right and Responsibility to Demand Change
Given the climate crisis, aviation is going to be pushed to change drastically. There are a number of estimates as to how much aviation is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. It is clear that, while other transportation sectors are reducing their contribution, that of aviation is increasing. (2) Doing more with less will come to pass because there is no other option. It is not so much a question of slowing the rate growth of this industry; it is a question of reducing its size. You can imagine that this is not a popular view.
But people, faced with the kind of iconic photos such as the shot of the earth showing the wildfires in California will start to question things. The evidence of extreme climate change is growing stronger. You can think of this in terms of a farmer in Central Africa starving and people in Bangladesh drowning. In this perspective, when you are making a decision whether or not to fly, it becomes a question: do you want to kill people? Do you want to drown people? There are quite a lot of hopeful signs. People are really starting to see there's a crisis and responding to this with action. Humanity's ethical systems are developing. If we can provide value frameworks to move us to sustainable systems, this will be a unique occurrence in our stay on earth.
This section should be read as my understanding of the panelists' presentations. It is not a complete account and may contain errors.
I'm a marine biologist, so I see things from that perspective. I'm focused on "dockside", so I'm not going to speak much on the topic of aviation.
There is a huge disconnect between the Port commission, which is publicly accountable, and the culture of fear among port staff. The new CEO, Tay Yoshitani, has a lot of potential to change this. There needs to be a top-to-bottom reassessment of how the Port does sustainability -- from composting to the taxis that deadhead at the Port. (11)
I became involved because I was personally affected by aviation emissions in 1993.
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Related Links+ Port of Seattle Commission
+ Earth And Peace Education Associates International
+ People for Puget Sound
+ Port of Seattle Commissioner
+ The Port Observer
+ US Citizens Aviation Watch
+ Friends of the Earth
+ Cascadia Convergence
+ Regional Transportation Commission Final Report
+ Roads and Transit proposal
+ Propositio n One
+ William D. Ruckelshaus
+ Washington Transportation Plan 2007-2026
+ Multimodal Concurrency Study
+ Click here
+ Sustainabi lity within a Generation for the Aviation Industry in the Cascadia Bioregion
+ No Paine No Gain
+ Sane Aviation for Everyone
+ social justice
+ active nonviolence
+ participat ory decision-making
+ inter-gene rational equity
+ The Earth Charter
+ High Speed Rail Projects in the United States: Elements for Success
+ Sustainabl e Aviation
+ New Apollo Alliance
+ Bunkerworl d 2007
+ Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy
+ Tay Yoshitani
+ Citizens Aviation Watch
+ Internatio nal Civil Aviation Organization
+ European Federation for Transport and Environment
+ Aviation Environment Federation
+ Center for Clean Air Policy
+ Coalition for Clean Air
+ Dutch Society for Nature and Environment
+ Friends of the Earth-Europe
+ German League for Nature and Environment
+ GermanWatc h
+ European Federation for Transport and Environment 
+ Aviation and its Impacts on the Global Atmosphere
+ Commercial Aircraft Design Characteristics -- Trends and Growth Projections
+ Boeing's Current Market Outlook 2007
+ WIKI entry on ISTEA
+ Ten Sustainable Aviation Demands
+ Washington Commerce Corridor
+ National Airspace System Capital Investment Plan: FY 2008-2012
+ Port Innovation Workshop Final Report
+ Mayor's Green Ribbon Commission Report on Climate Protection
+ Regional Transportation Commission Final Report 
+ An Institutional Conundrum - A Simplified Overview Of Metropolitan Institutional Reform Applied To Transportation In The Puget Sound Region
+ An Integrated Decision-Making Framework for Transportation Architectures: Application to Aviation Systems Design
+ metro New York coalition of sustainable aviation groups
+ Citizen Aviation Watch, USA, Inc.
+ Green Institute
+ Vaugh College
+ Earth and Peace Education Associates International
+ More on Environmental issues
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